Margaret Truman’s Murder on the Metro (Capital Crimes #33), by Jon Land

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jon Land, Macmillan-Tor Forge, and Forge Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having been passed the torch to continue Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes series, Jon Land fills two pairs of very large shoes. Developing the Robert Brixton character a little more, Land is able to continue the narrative and show readers that this P.I. still has what it takes, especially when stumbling upon a massive secret that could leave many dead across the United States. Fans of the series who have accepted that Mackensie Smith has become a secondary character will likely enjoy this one, as well as any reader who enjoys an intense political thriller with a peppering of international intrigue.

Robert Brixton has spent the better part of the last five years remember his daughter and how she was killed by a suicide bomber while seated in a cafe. The pain remains wedged front and centre in his mind, though he is now able to compartmentalise it when needed. After learning from his best friend, Mackensie Smith, that his job as a P.I. is being made redundant, he wonders what the next chapter in his life might be.

While riding on the Washington Metro, Brixton noticing a woman not dressed for the weather and acting in a highly suspicious manner. Following her, Brixton is able to chase her off the train, just in time for her suicide vest to explode. Brixton’s keen senses have saved many lives and he is congratulated when interviewed by a gruff detective before being whisked away for medical treatment.

Meanwhile, in the Naval Observatory, the US vice-president is ending another day with her head of Secret Service detail. Kendra Rendine has promised to keep the VPOTUS safe at all costs, though nothing could prepare her when the second most powerful person in American politics—a woman, no less—dies suddenly of a heart attack. Rendine is stunned, moreso when she learns that there may have been some ‘help’ to ensure the medical event occurred.

Working alongside Brixton, Rendine begins exploring the truth behind the heart attack, surmising that someone has been plotting for a while. When Brixton uncovers truths behind the Metro bombing that he had not realised before, he’s stunned to see that there are ties to a meeting in the White House and a prisoner in a federal facility with no formal documentation.

All the while, a drone attack in Israel awakens a Mossad operative to a larger terrorist cell developing in Washington. Answers await, though who can be trusted is anyone’s guess. Brixton and Rendine may have some needed answers, but Mossad has never played well in the sandbox with others.

As Brixton uncovers the truth behind the bombing, the murder of VPOTUS, and a terror cell’s strike in Israel, he discovers that there is something taking place deep in the White House that no one could have predicted was taking place. It’s going to take more than a simple accusation to reveal this truth, with an election on the horizon.

Jon Land does well to pick up where his two predecessors left off. Donald Bain and Margaret Truman both honed the complex and long-running narrative of the Capital Crime series effectively, though Land does not miss a beat. He tackles the big issues and is able to spin a tale like no other, keeping series fans from bemoaning a change in style and intensity.

Robert Brixton remains at the centre of the story, a place that Donald Bain chose for him years ago. Brixton continues to struggler with the death of his daughter, as well as his search for love with a woman who does not always accept his hands-off approach. Instilled with a determination to seek answers wherever questions remain, Brixton is keen to get to the heart of the matter without thinking of himself. There is little time for backstory, though the limited development Land permits works well to solidify him as an essential part of the series and this story.

The use of strong secondary characters works well in this series, As mentioned above, one-time star, Mac Smith, has been relegated to window dressing, though he does well in his position. Kendra Rendine is a wonderful Land creation and she works well throughout the quick-pace narrative. Rendine works effectively throughout the piece, offering up some nuggets that readers will likely enjoy. She surrounds herself with a handful of other key players, each of whom brings something to the story that makes it the strong piece that readers will come to find exciting.

I often have issues when an author takes up the worl of another, particularly on the death of the series creator. When Margaret Truman passed and the torch went to Donald Bain, I worried about the strength of the series. After a little patience, I realised that while this would not be Truman 2.0, it worked and I could continue to commit to the books. Now, with Bain having passed, Jon Land is handed the reins to see what he can make of things. Neither Truman 3.0 or Bain 2.0, Land has begun to carve out his own niche and does so well. I hope he will be able to commit to keeping the series on point and not allow this to be a ‘side job’.

The story worked really well for me, combining the political and criminal elements of a decent thriller. A strong narrative pushed things together nicely and meshed some strong plots into a cohesive story that finds a way to come together at its climax. With a number of strong characters, Land keeps the reader invested in the story, offering some ties to those who laid the groundwork for the series—read: Mac Smith—without getting lost in the past. Using a mix of chapter lengths and plot perspectives, Land keeps the reader wondering and pushing on, if only to learn how the various crimes connect and what the master plan might be for those pulling all the strings. I came into this piece somewhat hesitant about what to expect, but am keen to see Jon Land’s plan for series writing, after this stellar effort.

Kudos, Mr. Land, for impressing me with your first attempt at this long and highly intriguing series. Donald Bain did well in choosing you for his successor and I am sure Margaret Truman would be equally as impressed. Keep writing and series fans will take notice!

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

Murder on the Metro

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Margaret Truman’s Allied in Danger (Capital Crimes #30), by Donald Bain

Eight stars

Donald Bain is back with another instalment of the long-running Capital Crimes series. Straddling a legal and mystery genre here, Bain takes the reader on an interesting journey through the world of illicit money schemes. Mac Smith has just agreed to help a new client, whose father was taken in by a Nigerian money scheme, sending his life savings into the African country, before killing himself when he went broke. Smith, unsure if he will be able to help, brings his investigator into the case, in hopes of assisting. Robert Brixton can see this will be an uphill battle, but is always up for a challenge. Brixton turns to a friend of his at the British Embassy, David Portland, who also has an interest in Nigeria, though not for the same reasons. Portland’s son has been over in the country and may have been killed while working for a security company, SureSafe. However, Portland cannot learn anything for sure, until a family heirloom is found on a Nigerian back in D.C. Portland begins to uncover that his son may have died at the hands of a Frenchman who heads up security firm, closely allied with a warlord, whose enterprises include money schemes directed towards the gullible. Armed with a passion to bring justice for his son, Portland and Brixton pool their resources and impetus to head onto the African continent for some answers, though someone lurking in the shadows wants to ensure they end up empty handed and perhaps worse. What may have started out as a simple legal remedy to help a man duped out of his life savings has become a life and death mission for family honour. Trouble is, no one is willing to stick out their heads to help, worried it may be the last thing they do. Bain has pulled another winner out in this series, whose focus has shifted from the strong legal novels to something more focussed on investigation and mystery. Recommended for those who have followed this series for its lengthy run as well as the curious reader who wants a glimpse into the political and social situation of Nigeria.

I have been reading the Capital Crimes series since I discovered Margaret Truman many years ago. That it has reached thirty novels may surprise some, but its ability to morph and keep the reader’s attention speaks volumes to its longevity. Robert Brixton, the creation of Donald Bain when he formally took over the series, is a fabulously developed character. His tough exterior helps push the story along, with grit to get to the heart of the matter. However, the softer side as he still mourns the death of his daughter, pushes through and makes the character more compassionate and worthy of attention. While he may play a minor role in the last few novels, series regular and former protagonist Mac Smith is always a pleasure to see on the page. His anchored approach seeks to allow the law to do battle rather than devious behaviour, but he has a way about him that keeps the reader from rolling their eyes. With a narrative that pushes along and keeps the story fresh, Bain does wonderful things by educating the reader about many of the nuances of Nigeria and some of the vast differences with North American life, which provides a rich plot. Bain shows a dedication to the backstory and weaves it together effectively through a mix of short and longer chapters. The reader cannot get enough as they seek to learn which twists will influence the larger story and which are dead ends to entertain. Bain has kept Truman’s series alive with his own flavour and left series fans fairly impressed. Sadly, with his death, I suppose this is the last instalment in a long-running and highly energetic series.

Kudos, Mr. Bain, for keeping the spirit of Margaret Truman alive. She would be proud with your effort and I know fans of the novels are sure to applaud this effort. I thank you for all the work you did on this series and that you may now rest in peace.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: